22 January 2015 | tom.keller
Well, 9.5 anyway
I don't like giving ratings of 10 out of 10 because it implies that it can't be improved, which is never the case, but when I see drama as well written and well performed as this I want to see ratings that reflect that and respect it, and my 10/10 aims to redress some of the, in my opinion, ludicrous ratings of 1/10 that I see have been posted here. First the imperfections: I'm not sure why Peter Kosminsky, whose work I very much rate, has gone for hand held camera work in what is essentially a static shot. I have no problem with hand-held camera work per se, but the reasons for its use in a wide shot are lost on me, and the result is a slightly irritating amount of camera shake. Secondly, the time shifts could be a little clearer - blink and you miss the captions, and that's if they've actually been included. I think on one occasion the shift was implied rather than signalled. I suppose it does keep the audience on their toes.
But now to its huge strengths. First and foremost, the acting. I've been lucky enough to see Mark Rylance on stage and on television many times over the years and I think he's a force of nature, with everything he turns his hand to innovative and mesmerising, whilst at the same time containing the actor's essential ingredient - truth. That there is always something going on in his head is evident, but what is all the more intriguing is that we can't quite tell what it is . . . The rest of the cast are brilliant too, and the brief scene between Damien Lewis as Henry VIII and Cromwell was a mini delight and leaves me drooling in anticipation of future encounters between these two.
The costumes and locations are as impressive as ever with BBC productions, and will no doubt gather in numerous awards (although one bit of what I imagine was a CGI rendering of a Tudor village in the background didn't quite get there). There have been criticisms about the darkness of the lighting, a result of Kosminsky using lighting by candles (albeit with special cameras). I watched it in HD in a darkened room and I can't say it caused me any problems at all, and in fact I commented on how light and airy some of the daytime scenes were, showing life in the day in the same light - literally - as it would be today, as opposed to the generalised gloom in some depictions of the period.
I thought the pace was well-judged, especially when one acknowledges the difficulties in squeezing Hilary Mantel's immense volumes into six hours of television, and Peter Kosminsky has kept events moving along without being afraid to linger a while on the subtle signals of intrigue that are never far from Mark Rylance's face. The fact that much of Kosminsky's work has been in the political arena is very obvious here, and he gives us a needle-sharp insight into the machinations of that world, indicating that in oh so many ways, things don't change that much. Apart from the costumes, of course.
I can't wait for the rest of the series.